Treating Every Client Like They’re Your Only One

September 3, 2019


Most clients know they’re not your only client, but that doesn’t stop them from wanting to feel like they are. That’s our challenge as consultants. So, how can we deliver on it?  

To illustrate what works for me in this column, I’ve created a special acronym. Let’s call it RATE, which stands for Responsiveness, Accessibility, Time Management and Eliminate Distractions.

1. Responsiveness: When a client sends you an email or calls, they shouldn’t have to wait too long for a response.

While you may not be able to respond in full immediately when they make a request or ask a question, you can always acknowledge receipt of the message and a promise to follow up as soon as possible. Keeping clients in the loop and responding is one of the most valuable things you can do to build and maintain a strong relationship with your client.

2. Accessibility: For better or worse, smartphones make us accessible 24/7. I’ve heard horror stories of clients sending emails with requests at 3 a.m., and then expecting a completed task by the start of business five hours later.

While we do have to put limits on just how accessible we can be, it’s never a good idea to put off a client teleconference or meeting beyond the reasonable window they’ve established. So, if the client wants to meet next Wednesday, unless you are truly out of pocket with another client, a family obligation or on vacation, you should honor it or suggest an alternate time within a day.

And if you must cancel or reschedule a meeting, here is what you should do: Call your client as quickly as possible, talk to them or leave a message, and then send an email. The personal touch matters. Opting to cancel via email, text or a standardized “cancelled meeting” notice via Microsoft Outlook is a bad call.

3. Time Management: One common problem solos create for themselves is overscheduling. They try to squeeze too many meetings and commitments into the same space and something has to give. This will happen at times, and when it does, make sure that whatever gives has no adverse effect on your client.

For example, if you have a meeting with a vendor, followed by a client meeting, and then another client unexpectedly has a crisis, cancel that vendor meeting and take care of both clients.

When I worked for someone I really admired, he often said, “Next to family, clients come first.” So, even if he wanted me to do something that was very important to him and our organization, he knew that client demands trumped all.

As an independent, you can save yourself a lot of hassle in this area by maintaining a disciplined office schedule. Yes, you do have the luxury of scheduling a personal appointment in the middle of the day, but chances are it could make you less accessible for clients, and that’s precisely how problems can creep into your business model.

Make sure during business hours you’re as available to your clients as possible, which means scheduling nonbusiness-related activities for early or later in the day.

4. Eliminate Distractions: One of the biggest distractions you have is probably right in front of you: your phone or computer. How many times a day do you check Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for nonessential activities? If you’re like me, then you probably do it more than you should.

If you find yourself procrastinating a little too much and it’s affecting your productivity and your client work, then consider scheduling your social media breaks throughout the day. Maybe even schedule those trips to the coffee shop or kitchen, too. Draw boundaries for yourself. Turn off the TV or Spotify and give your business and your clients 100 percent of your focus.

You’ll be amazed at just how productive you’ll be just by doing this and how special your clients will feel.

Tim O'Brien, APR

Tim O’Brien, APR, owns O’Brien Communications, an independent corporate communications practice in Pittsburgh, and hosts the “Shaping Opinion” podcast. Email: Twitter: @OBrienPR.


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